Writing and Style Guidelines

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Introduction

University Marketing & Communications oversees grammatical standards for all materials, print and online, that emanate from Eastern Washington University to its various audiences. While there may be more than one “right” way to write a sentence, it is important to conform to one style to establish desired consistency.

Several examples of preferred usage are listed here. They address the most common issues that arise in text provided to University Marketing & Communications. The university's Editorial Style Guide has more in-depth information and examples. The university follows The Associated Press Stylebook (AP Stylebook) as its house style, with a few exceptions, and follows the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for spelling. If you have questions, please contact University Marketing & Communications writing/editing staff at 359.6422 or 359.2396.

Abbreviations

With state names

Use postal abbreviation for state names in mailing addresses. SPELL OUT: The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.

Correct

  • Send the form to John Smith, 123 Main St., Cheney, WA 99004 (Use Post Office abbreviations in mailing addresses.)
  • Eastern Washington University is in Cheney, Washington.*I live in Tennessee.

Incorrect

  • I live in Tenn. I live in TN.

Buildings and Rooms

Note: The word “room” is not capitalized.

Correct:

  • The class meets in Monroe Hall, room 204.
  • The class is in Martin Hall.
  • The class meets in rooms 204 and 205 in Monroe Hall.
  • Visit the University Bookstore.
  • I am going to the bookstore.
  • Students use the JFK Library. Where is the reference section in the library?
  • The class meets in 204 Monroe.

Capitalization

Eliminate excess capitalization. When in doubt, don’t capitalize.

Commas

In a series

In a series, do not use a final comma before the word “and” or “or.”

Correct:

  • We offer biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics.

In dates

Correct:

  • That occurred in September 1982.
  • On Sept. 6, 1982, my daughter was born.
  • That happened on Sept. 6, 1982.
  • I forgot about the 1960s.
  • I miss the ‘80s.

Course Names, Subjects and Departments

Note: Specific course names are always italicized.

Correct:

  • He is taking Geology 101. She is studying geology.
  • University Marketing & Communications is located in 102 Hargreaves Hall.
  • I am a professor of chemistry.
  • The English Department offers a specialization in creative writing.
  • Visit the Alumni Office (thereafter: the office); the School of Social Work (thereafter: the school).
  • The Journalism Program is part of the English Department.

Degrees

No periods are used in abbreviations of degrees. This house rule varies from AP style.

Correct:

  • He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry.
  • He has a BA degree.
  • She has a master’s degree in psychology.
  • I have an MBA.
  • He holds a doctorate in chemistry.
  • He has a PhD.

Money

Correct:

  • I have $5
  • She has $1,673,543.
  • She has $1,000.
  • He has $1.9 million.
  • He has $1 million.

Incorrect:

  • She has $1.9 million dollars.
  • I have $5.00.

Numbers

Use numerals for numbers 10 or higher but spell out single digit numbers

Phone Numbers

Phone numbers are formatted with periods.

Correct:

  • Call 509.359.6200 (or toll-free 800.359.6200) for more information about Eastern Washington University.

Seasons and Quarters

Correct:

  • The first meeting will be this spring, but formal classes won’t start until fall quarter.

Time

a.m. and p.m. are lowercase, with periods, and there is a space after the number. If a hyphen is used, there are no spaces before or after the hyphen.

Correct:

  • The event lasts from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • It is 6 p.m.
  • The event is scheduled for 4-7 p.m.

Incorrect:

  • The event is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • It is 6:00 P.M.

Titles

Capitalize titles when listed before the person’s name. Set off long titles with commas after the person’s name.

Correct:

  • EWU Professor John Smith will lecture today.
  • Bill Jones, the dean of students, met with the troublemakers.
    • Note: Don’t capitalize the title in this usage.
  • EWU President Mary Cullinan greeted students.
  • Mary Cullinan, president of Eastern Washington University, addressed the audience.

For books, films and courses

Italicize book, film, newspaper, magazine, course and most other titles (This house rule varies from AP style.)

Correct:

  • I loved the movie Finding Nemo.
  • I have a subscription to The New York Times.
  • I just read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
  • The band played Night of the Johnstown Flood.
  • She reads Time magazine.

The University

For documents and publications intended for outside distribution

With all first references:

  • Spell out Eastern Washington University

With all subsequent references, use:

  • Eastern, EWU or the university

For internal documents/communications

  • Eastern or EWU is permissible on first reference.

Terminology House Rules

The following list of terminology is to be used as a standard in all EWU communications.

advisor
Do not use adviser
and
Do not substitute the ampersand (&) in place of the word “and” unless it is officially used in the name of a department or organization, such as Marketing & Communications or AT&T.
cybersecurity
Use as one word
email
No hyphen
ID
Use capitalized, with no periods
online
one word
phonathon
start something big
italicized and lowercase in text
telethon
Internet
Always capitalize
web
lower case - differs from AP Style
website, webcam, webcast
One word, not capitalized
World Wide Web
Always capitalize

Web Lingo

Several social networking websites have their own names. When referring to a formal name of an online social networking site always capitalize the name of the social networking site. Examples: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

When referring to a social media verb such as “tweeting” or “facebooking” do not capitalize the word.

Identity Standards

The identity standards guide is your resource for everyday usage of: official logos; tagline; graphical elements; school colors; color palette; typography; and other elements. Please choose an option below to view the identity standards guide: http://www.ewu.edu/logo

EWU: Writing for the Web

While Marketing & Communications has established the above guidelines in order to create consistency in all the documentation the university does, we recognize that sometimes writing for the web differs from writing for a print project. Below are some key things to consider when writing for the web. The most important thing is to keep your writing clean, tight and engaging. In some cases you only have seconds to draw the reader in before they click to another page.

Common Content Mistakes

  • Because it’s easy and inexpensive, people tend to put everything they can on the web. Please don’t get caught up in trying to be all things to all people. Pick your best, strongest information and put that forward. The rest is just a roadblock.
  • Don’t put every piece of printed content on your website. Large volumes of unnecessary content can deter your users from finding what they need. Remember too, the less you put up, the less you have to maintain. This helps keep your pages fresh, especially when the resources needed to constantly be updating is hard to come by in many areas.

Headlines and Headings

  • The headline should identify the content of the page immediately.
  • Headlines and subheadings within the page break up the content, making it easy to scan.
  • Headlines should provide visual cues.
  • Questions make great headlines.

Know Your Audience

  • If you are targeting a 16-year-old high school student, make sure your content reflects that. They read differently than a 90-year-old donor.
  • Create the content they are looking for.
  • Write it in a conversational style.
  • Format it for effective scanning.

Links

  • Your users should know what to expect when clicking a link.
  • Do NOT create links that use the phrase “click here.” Make the section of the text that describes the link become the link itself. Choose one to five words that are informative and imbed the link in that text.

Things to Consider When Writing

  • People read differently on the web. They scan only 20-28 percent of the text and disregard the rest. Web readers pick out key words and phrases and read in quick, short bursts.
  • Front load text. Put the most important information at the top so readers who scan won’t miss your main idea.
  • Chunk your content. Cover only one topic per paragraph.
  • Use bullets and numbered lists - not just for long lists. One sentence and two bullets are easier to read than three sentences.
  • Use white space. It allows you to reduce busyness by visually separating information.
  • Test your webpage’s readability by using Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics feature—part of the Spelling & Grammar check.

Tone

  • Online readers expect a personal, upbeat tone in web writing.
  • Online readers find academic jargon/bureaucratic writing out-of-place and they simply will ignore the message. To avoid the over use of this language, turn the tone down a notch.

Word Count and Punctuation

To limit your word count when writing for the web, use the following general rules:

  • Headings: eight-10 words or less
  • Sentences: 15-20 words
  • Paragraphs: Aim for no more than five sentences per paragraph.
  • Pages: 300-500 words approximately

Note: Word counts are suggestions only.

  • Use dashes instead of semi-colons or break sentences in two.

Writing Style

  • Use half the word count of traditional writing.
  • Write so that key words can be found in a search.
  • Be clear, concise and direct.
  • Use the active voice - the subject does the action (e.g. ―The president released a statement.) Avoid the passive voice - the subject receives the action (e.g. ―A statement was released by the president.)
  • Use pronouns. The users are “you” and the university/program/department is “we.” This creates cleaner sentence structure and content that is more friendly and approachable.
  • Use parallel sentence construction. Not Parallel: Ellen likes hiking, the rodeo and to take afternoon naps. Parallel: Ellen likes hiking, attending the rodeo and taking afternoon naps. OR Ellen likes to hike, attend the rodeo and take afternoon naps.